Book Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M. J. Rose (Series, #4)
Jac ran away from her family’s traditional perfumerie in Paris to pursue a career in mythology in her mother’s homeland of the USA. This move was spurred on by her mother’s suicide, and Jac’s own subsequent loss of touch with reality. Years of therapy later, all is well, but when Jac’s brother and current manager of the perfumerie goes missing, Jac must face up to her demons at home, as well as scenes in her own mind. Are they delusions or past life memories?
I requested this on NetGalley without realizing it was part of a series, but it is evident each entry in the series is about different people whose lives intertwine in a minor way. Thus, I was able to read this book without feeling that sense of disorientation that happens when you jump into the middle of a series. I’m glad too, because I found the story an intriguingly different plot-line for a thriller.
Essentially, there are some pottery pieces that Robbie discovers in his home that may or may not have once held a scent that allows whoever smells it to remember their past lives. A past life therapist wants these pottery pieces, Robbie wants to give them to the Dalia Lama, and the Chinese government wants to keep them out of the Dalai Lama’s hand in their on-going quest against Tibet. It’s a good big world plot, but the overall focus is mostly on Jac, which is how I tend to prefer thrillers. And Jac is a great character. She is strong, intelligent, a caring sister. She had a rough childhood, but still has her head on straight. Her struggle with whether or not she had past lives ends up not being as important as the reader might at first think, which I also appreciated. Jac’s character development is about accepting herself for who she is and not making selfish choices. It is not at all the romance I thought at first it was going to be, and that is a good thing.
Rose evokes the settings of Paris and NYC with equal aptitude. I must say I found myself craving an afternoon at the museum and some creperies when I was done with the book. The perfumerie business and house are equally beautiful and easy to picture, but also the tunnels underneath Paris are evoked well. Setting and characterization are strong points of Rose’s.
I did periodically feel the book moved too slow in the beginning. Also, I was disappointed that people who were evil now were evil in past lives and the good were always good. Similarly, only one person had a past life as a different gender. I get it that Rose’s point is that one needs to know one’s past lives in order to fix your mistakes that you make over and over, but I think it’s a bit short-sighted to think that if reincarnation did exist it would be that simplistic. Also, personally, I just don’t believe in soul mates, so having that as a strong theme in the book was rather eye-roll inducing.
Overall, this is a fun worldwide thriller with educated people at the center of it that includes thought-provoking themes like self-improvement and self-acceptance. Fans of the modern, globe-spanning thriller will enjoy it, as well as anyone who has a love of Paris.
4 out of 5 stars